Overstimulated, isolated, sedentary, anxious, depressed children can get that way from staying in the house all day. This may happen because:
- Many parents are overanxious about their kids getting hurt and they think that their kids are safer in the house.
- Parents don’t understand the benefits of outdoor play.
- Moms can’t take their screens outside to watch the kids because of the glare and battery life so, they plug their kids in and they all stay inside connected to technology.
- Kids complain about being hot and un-entertained outside.
To wrap up this series on the critical developmental factors that every child needs, I will address the issue of nature in your child’s life. Nature is the bow that wraps the other three critical developmental factors together: attachment, touch, movement. It seems like a simple factor but don’t skim this post too fast, you may miss the scientific reasons why nature is good for your child.
Outdoor play is a biological necessity for children. We need the stimulation of the outdoors to grow up healthy. This is not a ‘back on the prairie’ parenting idea, it is a scientific fact rooted in extensive research in the area of sensory disorders, attention deficits, depression, aggression and anxiety just to mention a few issues. What scientific things happen when your child is outside? Very important things that can’t be duplicated indoors. When your child is in nature he experiences many things he can’t experience inside an air conditioned carpeted cocoon (house). He sees and feels the texture of the grass together with the dimension of the trees and clouds against the blue sky. Brain neurons are making connections. The birds fly by and his brain must distinguish that movement from the movement of the tree leaves blowing in the wind. More connections are added and he doesn’t feel alone. As he scans the horizon he sees the landscape in 3D and his eyes take in millions of pixels stimulating millions of neurons in his brain. Like beautiful fireworks, his brain is active with with sensory input making important connections to multiple areas and creating multiple, valuable communication pathways. While all this is going on he is distinguishing between sounds, smells, temperature and touch which also stimulates further brain involvement. It is no wonder why a fussy baby can be calmed by mom simply walking him outside. It is no mystery why all children (and adults) love going out in nature; it is a natural healer of many stresses.
This abundance of healthy sensory stimulation, watching, listening, touching and smelling, prepares him for deep learning in the classroom. “To learn, kids have to pay attention; to the teacher, book, whatever. Children’s attention spans are only so long (largely dependent on how much they use tech), so need to teach, take a break, teach, take a break. The most attention restorative agent known is nature. Sensory soothing aspects allow the brain to reset and get ready for another teaching session.” Chris Rowan.
When his brain has had a nature work-out he is in a much better state of mind to learn in school. He can focus on the verbal direction of the teacher while filtering out unnecessary sounds of paper rustling, classmates whispering and other classroom noises. He can concentrate better when his brain has been in nature. When your child gets the rich sensory benefit of the stimulation nature offers he is being prepared for success. He is actually learning to think deep and contemplate and also be amazed at God’s creation while in nature. It is better than any drug or therapy and it is free!
In the life of a child, technology is the polar opposite of nature. Technology is isolating, and small and only two dimensional. The screen has a limited number of pixels and the part of the brain that is most stimulated by the flashing screen is the pleasure center. Instead of the firework display of multiple neurons firing, it is more like the path of a bottle rocket hitting the limbic center over. and over. The frontal cortex starts to shuts down after only 20 minutes of play as and while your overanxious child has a singular focus on the game or screen he is not learning how to filter sensory information in the real 3D world. He is not practicing how to discern the layers of ‘life’ that he needs to filter in real learning settings like school and home. He is on a digital roller coaster and can’t easily get off.
The human brain was not built for this type of hectic stimulation especially before it is completely developed at the age of 25. So instead of looking for that digital monster this summer in the game, bring nature back into your child’s schedule and have your son look for a real frog instead. Think about how nature is a great venue for each developmental factor: attachment, touch, and movement. Grab a friend, a book and a picnic blanket and head to the back yard or to the park with your child. He will love the change, his brain will be better off and you will find it relaxing too!